The UEFA European football championship sends emotions soaring with the thrills of competition. While countries compete against countries, good sportsmanship can also bring countries and people together. Sports translations are an important part of this.
Inspired by the 2016 UEFA championship, here are some fun facts around football terminology auf Deutsch and en français. There’s also a few common “faux amis” (false friends) to be aware of when using the two languages.
One of the funniest faux amis for a French speaker while watching a German match may be the term “das Trikot,.” In German, this noun refers to a sports jersey. In French, however, “le tricot” is a dressy sweater.
“I always picture the players running across the field in a smart cardigan instead of a football jersey,” says Eva Korb, the multimedia coordinator at the Goethe-Institut.
Ms. Korb just produced a series of free German-French learning materials on the UEFA Euro 2016, or Europameisterschaft – a word that’s a mouthful, as are many German nouns!
Why word-lego makes translating German difficult
I asked Ms. Korb about how she handles the long German nouns when doing sports translations.
“Obviously, German is a very creative language when it comes to playing word-lego! I often enough encountered problems while translating a German word into French or English. Sometimes I had to add a proper subordinate clause or something similar to express what I actually wanted to say. As annoying as this circumstance can be at times, I count it as one of the beautiful sides of each language – something unique that can’t be translated. There are so many aspects of language that cannot be translated mechanically,” reported Ms. Korb.
What inspired the production of the UEFA German-French learning materials? Ms. Korb said that, “we wanted to support the German teachers during the championship, since we know that it is often quite hard to motivate the kids just before the big holidays and with so many matches that consume all their attention.”
The materials are also helpful to translators and fun for any sports enthusiast. The materials are aimed at young adults and kids, making them fun for adults, too! Articles introduce foreign words and phrases but also include a lot of fun facts. Fun sports translations highlights include “les faux amis” section or absurd quotes.
Common (and fun) sports translation mistakes
Being a word nerd, I found a few German words in the materials that Google translator provided incorrect definitions for (Rechtsschuss, Kopfball, Zweikampfstark, even Europameisterschaft itself!).
I asked Ms. Korb what her experience has been with online translators and translation programs.
“While I was giving workshops in schools, I often encountered translations obviously done by semi-professional online-translators. I could always tell apart the results from the students who used online-translators and from the students who tried to write a text themselves. Personally, I don’t count too much on online-translators…”
As a lover of the German language, I poked around quite a bit with the UEFA football terminology and found another funny problem. If one doesn’t use the German double-S ‘ß’ letter in Google translate, confusion sets it. For example, “Freistoß” (free kick) becomes mistaken for “Freistoss” (free shock)!
Ms. Korb shared more about the ‘ß’ confusion for automatic translation.
“Of course, that can happen quite easily. Especially when it comes to an area or field, you don’t know a lot about. But that’s the problem with the automatic translators, isn’t it? They don’t give you a lot of options so you’re stuck with one version, not knowing whether it’s correct. I actually don’t even recognize the meaning of the second word in German except for the football-related one.”
When one word says it all
I loved one French article in the UFEA materials with the German title, “Tooooooooooooor!” (Goal!). A perfect sports translation.
I asked Ms. Korb about how she accounts for not just mechanical translation, but cultural translation. That is, this particular section did a great job, with just one word, of capturing the Germans’ robust enthusiasm around football.
“There are certain things you can only fully express in their meaning in one language. Often enough it’s the setting and the context that count a lot. As for football in German: We have a lot of commentators – probably all – who would yell “Toooooooooooooor” when someone is scoring a goal. I never heard a French commentator yell “Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuut” – but maybe that’s just me. Then again, this is an example for oral expression and not the written one.
For the translation of written language, I will put forward the classic example of “Gemütlichkeit”. That word is basically untranslatable and you will always have to describe or paraphrase it. Sometimes, languages simply adapt the German word, e.g. “Zeitgeist” in English and French. I think that tells you a lot about the culture of the people and that is one of the reasons why it is a great perk to know as many different languages as possible – language is culture and vice-versa,” reported Ms. Korb.
Do German and French have dialects?
The answer is a resounding yes! German has not just dialects but also varieties. These are different enough to be considered by some separate German languages.
I wonder then, what about sports translations for the different German vocabulary and syntax in Swiss-German and Austrian-German? And what about all of the different French translations? Would there need to be a different or modified French translation to accommodate for West African-style French, for example?
My favorite German sports word
On an end note, my favorite faux amis presented in the UEFA Goethe-Institut material is “die Blamage.” This is a French-sounding word which the Germans simply made up! German speakers use it to mean fiasco, which the French call a débâcle.
If you want to avoid your football or other specialized sports translations from being a débâcle, I suggest avoiding Google translate for even the quickest translations, and definitely for the “lego-block” nouns in German. Among other things, Google couldn’t tell me what “Europameisterschaft” meant. Hopefully you do by now?
Note: More faux amis can be found in the Goethe-Institut’s free online UEFA Euro 2016 brochure. It was produced by the Paris office, and includes two instructional language lesson packets as well. All are downloadable PDFs.
Born in: Halifax, West Yorkshire, UK. A beautiful part of the world to which I still have a sentimental attachment, even though we moved away when I was six.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Artificial Intelligence and Computer Science from the University of Edinburgh. Don’t tell anyone, but I failed my final year due to an excess of outside interests, and only just scraped the degree.
Lives in: Y Felinheli, a village half-way between Bangor and Caernarfon in the top left-hand corner of Wales, with the mountains of Snowdonia on one side and the Irish Sea on the other. Smug? No, not at all…
Languages: English and French. My school German has grown very rusty through disuse.
Areas of special expertise: I still have an interest in my degree subject, and though I grew a little disenchanted with AI through my studies computing remains the area where I have most specialist knowledge to offer. Ultimately though I translate whatever I’m sent: annual reports, tourist information, museum displays, marketing documents, industrial specifications, training materials, government documents et j’en passe.
Who are some clients you have worked for? Picking a few names more or less at random, Gefco, Groupe SEB, Société Générale, the French health, foreign affairs, environment and defence ministries, Accor, Arts et Métiers ParisTech, the Luxembourg City Film Festival, Alstom Transport, Renault Trucks, Peugeot-Citroën, Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
Favorite thing about being a translator: The freedom and independence of working at home, being your own boss, setting your own hours and being able to work from anywhere are pretty hard to beat.
Least favorite thing about being a translator: Staying focused with all the tempting distractions of the Internet at your fingertips can be tough… and staring at a screen on your own for hours on end is not necessarily a recipe for total fulfillment.
What I like to do in my spare time: I love music, both listening and playing, especially with other people. I currently play bass and percussion in two bands. I am also a fan of photography.
Most exciting thing I’ve ever done: For sheer emotional intensity, nothing can top being present at the birth of my daughters.
Favorite place in the world: I mentioned a soft spot for West Yorkshire, and particularly the town of Hebden Bridge, where my earliest memories are located. I also loved living in Edinburgh, and more recently the Snowdonia valley between Waunfawr and Beddgelert has imprinted itself on my heart.
Favorite words in the languages you speak: Hmm, that’s a tough one. How about some least favourite words? Off the top of my head, in French: transverse, métier, valoriser; in English: austerity, fracking, curated… plenty more where those came from.
Born in: Germany
Education: Ph.D. in English/Creative Writing
Lives in: Berlin, Germany
Languages: German, English
Areas of special expertise: Film, literature, subtitling, movie scripts, video games, television, popular culture, arts & entertainment, travel, academic research, magazine articles, social media, content management and marketing.
Who are some clients you have worked for? I have worked for a number of art museums, universities, fashion and culture magazines like QVEST, as well as movie and TV production companies, including Sat.1, RTL, Zentropa International and Benten Film.
Favorite thing about being a translator: On a practical level, I love the independence it gives me to travel and work anywhere in the world. I’ve lived in New Orleans, New York, the Dominican Republic, and now Berlin, and now I have the freedom to spend a few months in New York or on a beach somewhere, then come home to Berlin, and my work goes wherever I go. I also appreciate the insights it gives me into different worlds. I’m a culture junkie, and I’ve translated movie scripts for Westerns, Sci-Fi, action movies, serious dramas, airline inflight menus, art reviews, fashion spreads, TV show pitches, and academic papers. Every time I start a new project I’m excited about the fresh perspectives those texts give me. You never stop learning.
Least favorite thing about being a translator: The flip side of the freedom is a certain kind of uncertainty — you don’t always know where your next project is coming from, and when it comes, the client often needs it the day before yesterday. You have to be flexible and be able to adapt to changing situations quickly to do this job well.
What I like to do in my spare time: As I said, I’m a culture junkie, so my spare time is usually filled with a lot of the same things I like to work on professionally: movies, music, books, travel, art. I’m also a film critic and published novelist, and when I’m not working on a translation, I’m often still at the computer, writing. I guess I’m a bit of a word addict.
Most exciting thing I’ve ever done: The two things I’m most proud of in the world are my daughter and my novel, Kino. The most exciting thing was probably the deep dive in the Caribbean where I nearly died — but I wouldn’t want to repeat that particular experience.
Favorite places in the world: Despite what I just said, about 30 meters underwater anywhere with a coral reef is still high on the list. I have a passionate love-hate relationship with New York and many fond memories of New Orleans, which probably has the best combination of music, food, and wonderful people that I’ve encountered anywhere (yet.)
Favorite words in the languages you speak: German has a way of making nice things sound horrible and less nice things sound amazing — and so the first words that come to mind are Mutterkuchen, Fruchtwasser and Vergangenheitsbewältigung. But I’ll probably find a better answer in twenty minutes: I’m currently translating a Bavarian romantic comedy, and it’s full of delicious (and difficult to translate) turns of phrase. My favorite English word is funk.
Born in: California
Education: B.A. International Relations with graduate work in International Business Law
Lives in: Charlotte, North Carolina USA
Languages: English, French
Areas of special expertise: Aerospace, Manufacturing, Standard Technical English, Intl. Development & Aid, Politics, Medical & Scientific Research, Websites, Marketing and Copywriting.
Who are some clients you have worked for? As business professional I have worked with Airbus Industrie, Latecoere, CNES French Space Agency, Alcatel Espace, Thomson CSF, Omron, Messier Bugatti (SNECMA/SAFRON), Boeing, Various Airlines, Durobag Manufacturing, Perseco (McDonalds), Hallmark, US Airways/American Airlines. As a translator, I currently work for translation agencies around the world such as BeTranslated, international airframers (OEMs) and US Government contractors.
Favorite thing about being a translator: Being a translator has afforded me a very unique lifestyle. I can work from anywhere in the world and have an extremely flexible schedule. Being able to put a lifetime of experience working both in the US and abroad for cutting edge companies to work for my translation customers is truly rewarding.
Least favorite thing about being a translator: Sometimes the time it takes to produce a translation I can sign off on is longer than I care to admit. I’m meticulous and I put in as much time as I need to in order to get a translation just right. The “artist” in me can sometimes be demanding and I would say that is my least favorite thing about being a translator.
What I like to do in my spare time: I’m blessed with a great deal of free time and enjoy exploring my city with my friends and colleagues, traveling, outdoor activities at our local whitewater rafting center (canoeing, zip-lining), snorkeling at my favorite beaches or simply walking the trails with my beautiful husky companion “Milou”. I also fly for a local airline as part of their flight crew when I am not translating and like being a part of the team of safety professionals that keep passengers safe and comfortable as they travel around the world.
Most exciting thing I’ve ever done: I learned to sail a 2-person Hobie Cat catamaran in Lacanau, France – We literally flew across the water at breakneck speeds while “trapezing” off the side of the catamaran … spectacular!
Favorite places in the world: The countryside surrounding Toulouse in southern France, an old hotel in Nassau (Bahamas), a traditional Japanese Ryokan inn overlooking the Pacific near Tokyo, and the golden Sierra Nevada mountains of California where I grew up.
Favorite words in the languages you speak: There are so many words I love in French, but my favorites are coquelicots (poppies), papillions (butterflies), bisous (kisses) and écureuil (squirrel), my nickname when I lived in France.
Name: Michael or Mike
Born in: Charleroi, Belgium
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Translation (Dutch and English into French), from the Ecole d’Interprètes Internationaux of Mons, Belgium.
Lives in: Cabarete, Dominican Republic
Languages: French, English, Spanish, Dutch, German and some Italian. I only translate from English, Dutch and Spanish, but I love languages in general.
Areas of special expertise: Internet Marketing, IT at large, geopolitics, international development & aid, Website localization
Who are some clients you have worked for? I’ve worked a lot for the UN, the World Bank, the USAID and other NGO’s. I’ve also worked for Adidas, and translated most of the “Impossible is Nothing” campaigns into French. Today, I mostly proofread translations and concentrate on project management.
Favorite thing about being a translator: I love the ability to set my own schedule, as it gives me all the flexibility I need to practice kiteboarding and to go on the water when the conditions are optimal. Until I had a daughter, it also offered me the possibility to travel and still be able to work from anywhere.
Least favorite thing about being a translator: Deadlines can be stressful. Customers often take a long time to draft a document, and then expect it to be translated in half the time it took to write it. I also dislike being alone in front of a computer for too long. While most people look forward to going home after a day of work, I want to get out at night when I am done working.
What I like to do in my spare time: I like to go kiteboarding to forget about job-related stress. I also like to spend time with family and discover new places.
Most exciting thing I’ve ever done: In 2014, I went on 2-day kitetrip on the North West part of the Dominican Republic and did a 20 km downwinder from a tiny island near Punta Rucia to Buen Hombre (a small fisherman village). Kiteboarding in flat crystal clear water surrounded by mangroves was the most impressive experience in my life. It was a real challenge, and I lost 3 kilos in the effort. This was probably my biggest challenge.
Favorite place in the world: It must be Cabarete, where I live. The other place is Barcelona where I regularly go for business and to visit friends. It’s the exact opposite of the town I live it, but I love the climate, the culture, and the fun of that city.
Favorite words in the languages you speak: I recently started to study German again (last time was in high school). I fell in love with the word Herausforderung which translates as “challenge”. It’s not a particularly sexy word, and it took me a while to remember it, but it conveys the challenge that represents learning a new language. In French, it would be concupiscence, I just love the way it sounds. In Dutch, I like the word lekker (delicious, nice). It is used a lot in the Netherlands.
In Spanish, I love so many words, but my preferred expression must be Mi amor which is used very frequently in Dominican Spanish. You could be saying it to a complete stranger and they would not be offended. Another favorite Spanish word is grandulón, which can be used to describe a tall or child-like person.
This is the first installment of our series Interview with a Translator, which will regularly introduce you to a translator from our global translation network. First up is Miguel, our newest member. Please welcome him, make sure to like and share this interview and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates and future installments of Interview with a Translator!
Born in: Seville, Spain
Education: A degree in Translation and Interpreting, University of Granada, Spain and a postgraduate degree in Translation and Language Industries, ISTI, Brussels
Lives in: Madrid
Languages: Spanish, French, English
Areas of special expertise: Literary & editorial, legal & sworn translation, technical, Web content localisation
Who are some clients you have worked for? Penguin Random House, Santillana, Amnesty International, Museo Guggenheim Bilbao, Avanquest…
Favorite thing about being a translator: Learning about so many different things. Working from home. The convenience of just typing. The enchantment of cultural and linguistic differences between languages. Getting around in the English, French and Spanish-speaking worlds.
Least favorite thing about being a translator: Sitting for too long at home, typing too hard. Confusing gender discrepancies between Spanish and French (la leche but le lait). Converting Imperial to Metric.
What I like to do in my spare time: Trekking, climbing, traveling. Family matters, such as family acrobatics or family snorkeling.
Most exciting thing I’ve ever done: Jumping from a cenote in Dominican Republic, for one. Professionally, giving voice in my language to admired storytellers such as David Foster Wallace, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Roald Dahl.
Favorite place in the world: In Brussels, the neighbourhoods of Ixelles and St. Gilles. In the US, San Francisco. In the UK, Devonshire. In Spain, Cabo de Gata, Andalusia and the neighbourhood of Lavapiés in Madrid.
Favorite words in the languages you speak: Um, let’s see… In Spanish, I love the words caléndula, a kind of flower, or cauchil, a mozarabic word meaning a water deposit for irrigation. In French, pamplemousse, boulangère, couture… In English, words like torpor or languor sound really exotic to me, even though they are Latin in origin (not that I am particularly keen on «torporing» or «languoring» anyhow).